Relay squad ‘will put controversy behind them’

Ireland’s Olympic Team manager said last night the women’s 4x400m relay team will put the controversy that embroiled the squad behind them and move forward towards their goal — a place in the Olympic final.

Patsy McGonagle admitted that what happened was unfortunate and said he felt very sorry for both girls involved — Joanna Mills, whose London 2012 dream has been shattered, and Catriona Cuddihy who will replace her in the squad after a very upsetting and potentially divisive wrangle over selection. Cuddihy was originally selected and then replaced on appeal to the Athletics Ireland Appeals panel — a decision subsequently reversed on appeal to the OCI.

“It was most unfortunate that this should have happened,” he said. “But I know this squad well and I know they will put it behind them. They have worked unbelievably hard to achieve qualification and get themselves to the point where they are, collectively, fulfilling their Olympic dream. I know how much they have put into it at every level and the sacrifices they have made and I know that they will rise above and beyond this controversy and give a very good account of themselves at the Olympic Games.”

He was speaking from the Irish holding camp at Lensbury, where a number of the athletes have already based themselves.

“The facilities here are second to none,” he said. “The athletes want for nothing and the weather is perfect for what they are doing, putting the finishing touches to their Olympic preparations.

“Mark Carroll is here and has been doing great work with Ciarán (Ó Lionáird) who flew back to Dublin this morning for tomorrow’s Morton Mile at Santry.”

Ó Lionáird, himself, praised the facilities and the medical team who have been managing his troublesome Achilles tendon.

“I felt good coming off the race at Cork City Sports,” he said. “There were no effects at all, apart from a bit of inflammation, but that’s gone now. There was always going to be some degree of inflammation but we are dealing with it because I can’t afford to ease up on training. We have a very good sports injury staff here and they are taking good care of me.”

Last year he broke four minutes for the very first time in the Morton Mile and, since then, he has run 3:54 indoors.

“I am going to run the mile again,” he said. “I was thinking about the 800m but I want to get comfortable with the first two laps. I did a good lactic session after Cork City Sports and, with that in the bag, it allows me to run the mile in this meet and hope I perform well.

“This race will bring me forward again. I did a fairly hard session on Friday and another on Sunday so I haven’t really eased up. I want to go right into the first round of the Olympics so I want to go out again tomorrow night and try and sub-four minutes and that will bring my body along.”

Tonight’s field will include Australian Olympian Ryan Gregson, who won the Cork mile, David Torrence of the US who has run 3:52, Will Lear who won the Morton Mile two years ago, and Mohamed Ahmet Hamada who will represent Egypt in the 800m at the Olympic Games.

There’s a strong Irish contingent, led by Paul Robinson who is Ireland’s first sub-four man, and Rory Chesser from Ennis and national 5,000m champion Mark Hanrahan, who are both close to sub-four.

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